Welcome to the first of what will be many focused posts on key first-round players and potential Boston Bruins draft picks over the next 27 days until the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is in the books. I thought I'd start big and work myself down, so we'll open with Taylor Hall, theprohibitive favorite to go 1st overall to Edmonton next month, but who could possibly fall to No. 2 and be the next big Boston Bruins prospect.
My goal for these profiles is to provide a one-stop shop in terms of the players' attributes, what the scouting community thinks about them, and what the prospects themselves have to say of note.
Taylor Hall, LW Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Born: November 14, 1991
Strengths: Explosive, dynamic game-breaker who has repeatedly demonstrated high-end goal scoring ability and a will to win. Blasts up to top speed in just a few strides and is a master of his edges, able to stop on a dime and change direction rapidly. Has that extra separation gear that makes him a threat to score every time he's on the ice. Outstanding puckhandler who can make his moves at top speed. Elusive and agile; can burn through defenses in a straight line, or weave through traffic effortlessly, leaving opponents befuddled in his wake. Excellent shot; lightning release and accurate-- can rip it past goaltenders from outside and is deadly with it between the hashmarks. Nice backhand as well, and quick hands makes him dangerous with the deke. Offensive instincts are superb; reads the developing play well and anticipates turnovers. Deft passer who has the vision and soft touch to hit open teammates for quality scoring chances. A winner; stepped up his game in '09 when Windsor was 0-2 in the Memorial Cup, winning MVP honors, then did it again in the OHL playoffs against Kitchener when his team was 0-3 and facing elimination in four consecutive contests. Just seems to blossom whenever the game is on the line. Versatile; an accomplished special teamer and can play center (his original position before becoming an OHL regular), even though he's been used as a wing in Windsor.
Weaknesses: Slight frame that requires added mass and strength. Tends to leave himself open to big hits and sometimes too willing to pay the price physically; will run the risk of wearing down at the next level. Defensive game will need a little more attention in the pros-- he was so dynamic in junior that it was never an issue, but scoring alone won't cut it at the next level. Sometimes tries to do too much himself-- has been criticized as being selfish, but as several scouts have said, the best scorers in hockey are like wide receivers in football-- they need to have that element of selfishness in order to go out and produce the way they do.
Projection: First-line winger and future NHL All-Star with 50-goal upside. As skilled and productive as Hall has been, scouts caution the inevitable comparisons to the generational talents we've been spoiled with in recent drafts: Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Hall will be an excellent NHL player, but he'll need a good supporting cast to continue the impressive resume he's built since being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 OHL Draft (after the Erie Otters selected Ryan O'Reilly).
Style compares to: Jarome Iginla (Peter Chiarelli); Pavel Bure (NEHJ)
Draft Prediction: 1st overall to Edmonton. It's really hard not to envision him wearing the Oilers sweater in L.A. simply because he was playing hockey up until a week ago and doing so much with the opportunities to impress scouts. Don't read too much into his lack of ability to complete all of the physical tests at the draft combine in Toronto; NHL teams know the price he paid for those injuries that hampered him, and you can't put a price on what a guy who is a two-time Memorial Cup winner and MVP, even with the great team means to a club like Edmonton who finished last. If the Oilers decide to go with Tyler Seguin, then Hall will be welcomed with open arms to Boston. A trade-up one slot for the Bruins is a possibility, but unless they like Hall significantly better than Seguin, they're better off holding onto the assets it would take to do so and applying them elsewhere.
Background: Parents are Steve Hall and Kim Strba; Taylor is an only child. His father, Steve was born in Australia and moved to Canada with his family when he was three, where he became an accomplished football player (wide receiver with three different CFL teams) and bobsledder. Mother Kim was the hockey fan and liked the Bruins and Bobby Orr; Hall wears No. 4 because the former Boston great was his mom's favorite. Orr is also Hall's agent. Taylor was born in Alberta, but moved to Kingston, Ontario as a youngster. Favorite NHL team growing up: Calgary Flames.
"The very first time I saw him, I knew he had it. He's got all the tools -- he can skate, shoot, he's got hockey savvy. I could go on and on. He's got the touch. I've seen them all come up -- (Sam) Gagner, (Rick) Nash, (John) Tavares -- and this kid's as good as any of them."- Don Cherry to the Windsor Star; December, 2007 (Hall's OHL rookie season)
“It was when the Calgary Flames were on that run [in the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs]. He didn’t come home from school, didn’t call and I was getting a little worried about him. He had gotten on a bus and gone to a friend’s house on the other side of the city to watch the Flames [on television]. I spoke with [the friend’s] mother and told her, ‘He has Flames’ fever – and he’ll be grounded when he gets home.’” - Kim Strba to the Toronto Globe and Mail when asked if Taylor had "given her any grief as a child"; May 23, 2010
“Taylor Hall is a little thicker, a little heavier. He plays a more prototypical power forward type game. He’s a left shot but can play both sides. Good one-timer and really likes to drive the net. … He’s a tremendous skater, a very powerful skater.”-Peter Chiarelli, Boston Bruins GM; April 2010
“It was be awful hard for them (the Oilers) not to (take Hall). Hall’s a big name in Canada, has accomplished an awful lot already, and has quite a bit of media attention around him. He’s the player the fans are going to want, so it will be interesting to see what (Steve) Tambellini does.”- NHL scout; April 2010
“Obviously, the draft is something I think about just because there's so much attention paid to it, especially as we get closer to June. But at the same time, I've got the rest of the season to play and trying to win the OHL championship and a Memorial Cup title to defend, so those are the things that are more important right now and where my attention is.”- Taylor Hall to the New England Hockey Journal; March, 2010
“I’ve been following Boston a lot (in the 2010 playoffs). It’s going to be an exciting opportunity to have the chance to earn a spot on an NHL roster next season, and I’ll be thrilled to be in that situation wherever I end up.”- Taylor Hall to the New England Hockey Journal; May, 2010
“The big thing for me is that this is a kid who wins. You look at him and last year he was the Memorial Cup MVP, so he’s won a lot in the past. This year, come playoff time, some of the individual play you saw from him (and that frustrated scouts) during the season where he might turn the puck over, or make a bad decision because he was trying to do it all himself, has gone away. Now, he’s making plays and using his teammates and the excellent talent he has around him, and it’s all about the team and winning. He’s playing a disciplined, selfless game and has really stepped it up in the playoffs. He’s a huge reason Windsor is where they are right now.”- NHL scout; May, 2010
Hall, Bruins could be perfect fit
Taylor Hall enjoying final say in draft race